It started during the boom of dot-com businesses eight years ago and now hotelthailand.com, an online travel reservation website, has remained at the forefront among electronic-business websites in Thailand, despite the fact that the dot-com business has become "dot-gone".
Many websites have been shut down due to the failure of the business model, which could not generate enough income, but sales revenue from online hotel bookings at hotelthailand has grown 400 per cent.
Today, the site generates around Bt30 million in sales a month, growing from only Bt8 million a month five years ago.
Thawatvongse Silamanonda, the 31-year-old managing director of Mono Travel, who operates the hotelthailand.com site, said that the success of its sales volume was the result of a plan to provide quality service for online reservations.
"We have to make sure that customers who come to our site get what they want with a fast response," he said. Technology, therefore, plays an important role in the site's service. Thawatvongse said IT was a key tool to help the site offer better service and increase its competitive advantages.
Since acquiring hotelthailand.com from the E-Business Alliance in 2001, Thawatvongse realised that to make the site successful, apart from having a strong name brand with 200,000 customers and 1,000 hotels under contract, he had to use more technology to facilitate the online booking process to enhance customers' satisfaction.
Ten software developers from Mono Travel were assigned to this task. Their first effort was to build up the database and back-end system so that all online booking orders coming from the storefront automatically go through the back-end system, with no need to make a re-entry.
"With this new system, we speed up the process while reducing redundant work by 30 per cent, to offer customers a much faster response time," he said.
To better satisfy customers, the company also designed what it called "one time service", by allowing customers to have instant confirmation of their booking in real time.
Instead of making customers wait a day or two for an e-mail to confirm their booking, they now know instantly whether or not a room is available.
"This way we help customers to better prepare for a trip. If they know at once that no room is available for a hotel, they can change their booking to another hotel to make sure they get a room," he added.
The site's service improvement, all enhanced by technology, was a key step to make hotelthailand gain popularity among Internet-based travellers. Around 4,000 online booking transactions are processed monthly through the site.
Next year, the company plans to launch a new service for room inventory management. The service, called "Free Sales System", is designed especially for hotels and other accommodation owners to access the site's central system to view their allocation.
If they find that the number of rooms available on the site is too low, they can add more rooms automatically.
The new service, he said, was expected to be a new sales channel for hotels to release their rooms to customers.
Thawatvongse said that although many services were now in place, there is still much more to do to further develop the site. "In an online business, we can't stop developing. Instead, we have to think and move forward to bring new services to satisfy customers, and encourage them to stay with us longer. This is our goal," he said.
During the past 18 months, hotelthailand had around 25-per-cent retention of customers. Thawatvongse said that with the planned new developments, he hoped the figure would increase to 50 per cent by the end of next year.